Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Hide the chaos 

Scott Beaulier reports on a presentation at his school by Joshua Hall, in which Hall discusses a loss of data for measures of economic freedom. (Hall blogs at Division of Labor.)
When discussing the Economic Freedom Index, Josh talked about some of the challenges they may soon be facing. According to Josh, organizations like the ILO might be making it more difficult for them to gather labor data for the index.

The World Bank and other organizations are being pushed to stop asking questions about paid leave, the costs of hiring workers, and hiring/firing regulations. Critics argue these "costs" are actually "benefits." Rather than allow organizations to recode these data as benefits, pro-labor organizations are putting strong pressure on them to stop asking questions about labor market policies altogether.

If successful, this would have a big effect on one of the core components to the EFI.
As Bryan Roberts and I wrote in our book, The Design and Use of Political Economy Indicators, governments in developing countries respond to these rankings by seeking to enact policies that increase economic freedom. That is, the measures are educational to policymakers in the developing world. Critics of growth-generating policies would rather not have this response, so they attempt to suppress the data.

I argue in that book that labor policies are largely a subset of property rights. If you have properly measured the presence or absence of laws that support private property -- including the right of contract between worker and entrepreneur -- you may not really need all of the elements in that index. Strict labor laws, expropriation of private property, and even central banking that credibly commits to price stability are simply facets of one of two logically consistent economic systems. (See Mises, Planned Chaos.)

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

What's the matter with you Americans? 

More years ago than I�ll admit, I was a student in a class of the man who became my mentor, Tom Willett. The course was in economics and public policy, and the early part of the syllabus had us read on the nature of arguing about economics. One line that stuck out to me like nothing else was this: Saying �if you knew what I know you�d agree with me� is poor argumentation. I may know what you know, my professor argued, and yet find a flaw in your logic or add another piece of evidence that leads me to a different conclusion.

The notion that we know enough to know what is in someone else�s best interest is evidence of this fallacy, and I have found over the succeeding decades there are many academics that fall into it. Applied in the political sphere, it takes the form of �why does the public not understand what we are trying to do?� We heard it in President Obama�s State of the Union address last week in his claim that his failure on health care was "not explaining it more clearly to the American people." It characterizes the thoughts of Thomas Frank in "What�s the Matter With Kansas?, a book that I found alternately patronizing and pathetic, arguing that it must be false consciousness or hypnotizing demagoguery that leads the working class of Kansas, once home of agricultural Wobblies, to now vote consistently conservative.

That meme is now everywhere. David Brooks calls tea partiers anti-intellectual and Frank Rich calls them comatose. Responding to the election of Scott Brown, the BBC carries a column by David Runciman, a British academic political scientist of high birth (how else to describe someone whose Wikipedia entry notes his viscountcy?) that cannot understand why town halls are filled with people repulsed by Democrats health care reform. It�s to help them, dears!
But it is striking that the people who most dislike the whole idea of healthcare reform - the ones who think it is socialist, godless, a step on the road to a police state - are often the ones it seems designed to help.

In Texas, where barely two-thirds of the population have full health insurance and over a fifth of all children have no cover at all, opposition to the legislation is currently running at 87%.

Instead, to many of those who lose out under the existing system, reform still seems like the ultimate betrayal.

Why are so many American voters enraged by attempts to change a horribly inefficient system that leaves them with premiums they often cannot afford?
My friend Marty Andrade tweeted this link with the comment "But I stole this for you," says the plunderer. "Why do you not take it? Why do you not vote for me?" But it is not so much the politician but the wonk, the analyst who makes such pretty plans, that finds himself exasperated by the failure of the public to appreciate them. No place does this happen more than in academia, particularly in America, where as I�ve argued before the academic does not often travel in either the working class circles or in those the successful businesspeople.

The answer to Prof. Runciman�s question is inside America�s DNA. The founders, writes Prof. Carl Richard, were a deeply suspicious bunch.
The founders� immersion in ancient history had a profound effect upon their style of though. They developed from the classics a suspicious cast of mind. They learned from the Greeks and Romans to fear conspiracies against liberty. Steeped in a literature whose perpetual theme was the steady encroachment of tyranny on liberty, the founders because virtually obsessed with spotting its approach, so that they might avoid the fate of their classical heroes. It has been said of the American Revolution that never was there a revolution with so little cause. Whatever his faults, George III was hardly Caligula or Nero; however illegitimate, the moderate British taxes were hardly equivalent to the mass executions of the emperors. But since the founders believed that the central lesson of the classics was that every illegitimate power, however small, ended in slavery, they were determined to resist every such power. Even legitimate authority should be exercised sparingly, lest it grow into illegitimate powers. (pp. 118-19)
Doesn�t it seem the same today? When one points out the connection between parts of the Obama agenda and those of European socialists we are told �he�s certainly not one of those!� Of course not. But we called tyranny a level of taxation that many other places just accepted as their lot in life. Our common people believe they deserve explanations, and they are mistrustful most of those who say, �trust us.�

And this is a vital point -- a country that has the character to not use government power to plunder a minority for the sake of a majority (or vice versa, as in Saddam's Iraq) better resists the eventual trials of war, depression, famine, etc. Many Western countries took a sharp left turn after WW2. The US did only a little less so. In both the US and UK a swerve back came from Reagan and Thatcher. I still find the latter more remarkable than the former, but the common culture that ties them owes much to the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Prof. Runciman cites facts and wonders why they fail before the stories that critics of Obamacare have told. Some no doubt do not understand the facts as presented. But presenting them better will not work well in the face of America�s preternatural wariness towards power. It may worry over unemployment but that is something that is ultimately under their control. Government debt, however, appears out of their control and is used towards things we are told to trust. Trust in government is exactly NOT what this country was founded on.

UPDATE: Along with some other posts, this was cross-posted to HotAir, and has been linked by Instapundit. Thanks to all my readers, and hope if you're new here you'll check out the rest of the premises.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Children of Deployed Soldiers 

This Sunday's article in Parade Magazine discusses the fact that children of deployed soldiers are in danger and suffer higher levels of emotional stress than their peers. I agree wholeheartedly with Executive Director of the National Military Family Association, Joyce Raezer, that the Department of Defense may need to do more for these kids but I also have a few other points to make:

1 - Too many of these kids have teachers who are against the war - their anti-war mantra has to affect these kids. Instead of putting down the USA, the military, and related groups, these teachers should be thanking these kids, their families and their military parents for the sacrifices, bravery and heroism displayed by the vast majority of our military, the real protectors of freedom.

2 - Perhaps if the mainstream media, Hollywood and so much of the rest of the "entertainment" industry covered and were supportive of the heroic efforts our soldiers show, these kids would have better scores.

Remember, there are over 200 of us, non-soldiers, enjoying our lattes, free education, shopping, freedom of choice because we have a couple of million people willing to serve our nation part time or full time. These people are the real heroes - and their kids deserve all the support we can give them.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Apple Valley Job (aka tax) Summit 

Tuesday, after attending a job (aka tax) summit in Apple Valley (AV) sponsored by the AV Chamber of Commerce, I visited a friend who works at Medtronic.

He told me about Medtronic's founder, Earl Bakken. His is a classic story, �What is the problem? Here is a solution." The first battery powered pacemaker was developed by Bakken as a huge improvement to the then existing devices that required a wire connection to an electrical source. Today there are over 1, 000,000 pacemakers implanted per year, and additional millions in use. This is the good news. The sad news is that today, it quite possible the device never would have been invented. Why? Government regulations. Now it can take up to five years to get approval to test a new medical device, and more to get a device to humans who can use them. Because of far too much bureaucratic intervention, many life-saving device ideas never see the light of day.

Connection with Apple Valley: The attitude that government can solve everything was alive and well with the legislators attending the AV summit who were DFLers and one lone Republican, Representative Tara Mack (who does not have a government can do all belief). Their talks were short but also worrisome. While MN does face problems including these:

1� Banks leery of lending money for two reasons: First, some government agency will come and second guess them; second, if you can get money at 0% from the federal government and earn a safe 2-3% in an investment, why take the risk on someone for a possible 6% return? Solution � the government needs to let the markets determine the interest rates, that is the value of money.
2 � Employers cutting back on hours worked in order to save jobs. Actually, this is commendable because it gives people an income versus letting them go.
3 � An erroneous attitude that in two years, the economy would rebound and all would be fine. In fact, that is one of the reasons the DFL wants to push through a $1,000,000,000 bonding bill this year. It looks nice but this is just more debt MN will have to retire. But oh, it goes for roads, zoos, etc.

Does the government have to intervene to solve everything including jobs?

As I listened to the politicians, I learned that MN has established a lot of government agencies trying to �help� business through programs, training, etc. While all this may sound good, it costs the taxpayers money to fund "middle man" government bureaucracy. I would think a business enterprise could provide the same service. What also was bothersome, some DFLers mentioned they wanted to "work with our partners at the federal level" to solve the job problem.

I distributed a chart with data that shows the 5+x rate of spending in MN versus population since 1960. Immediately, I was challenged on specific blips on the chart, etc. My response, �Even if the chart is off 100%, the approximate 45 degree trajectory is simply unsustainable. The easiest solution is to get government out of the way of business. Then the creativity, the risk takers, the Earl Bakkens, etc. can get moving on the job creation.�

My ultimate suggestion was this: �In the upcoming legislative session, make a commitment to cut business taxes and regulations by 20%. If you want jobs to come and stay in MN, this is the fastest way to get them. If government believes companies that left will come back, wake up, they won�t. They are gone. Now we need to protect the jobs still here.

Some regulation is necessary but the mindset to "protect everyone from everything" and
"government must interject itself to solve all problems" will not work. We need to remove the lousy middle man in job creation, the government.

Addition: Today's Star Tribune tells the story of a former Olympic swimmer who has a pacemaker. Would she even be alive without this invention? Who else will be denied a life-saving device because of "middle man" government's eagerness to "help" (aka get in the way)?

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

US Constitution 

In a past career, I taught kids about the US Constitution. We parsed the Preamble so as to understand its meaning. The Preamble is very short but packed with key phrases. Every student had to recite it in front of the class.

As I've watched the chipping away and now gouging of our Constitution, I'm reminded of two key phrases: ..... PROVIDE for the common defense and PROMOTE the general welfare. Seems our current Democrat leaders have the words 'promote' and 'provide' backwards. It's time to take back our Constitution. You want to be inspired? Go watch this You Tube video of Lt. Col. Allen West, running for US Congress in FL's District 22. He nails it big time. And, if you can spare a few $$, send them his way. He gets it and says it very well.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A president is not a member of my family 

I expect Russ Roberts to make a comment like this, since I found this link off his Twitter stream, but I'm going to venture a comment first. David Harsanyi notices the sharp increase in regulation under the Obama Administration (which is saying a fair deal, because President Bush was not exactly reticent in regulation himself). Bill O'Reilly had a segment last night in which both he and a liberal talk show host agreed that there is regulatory overreach.

Russ will, no doubt, bring up the two worlds, the micro-cosmos and the macro-cosmos, that Hayek said we live in simultaneously. See Steven Horwitz, for example. In my home I do try to control everything. Last night our very old cat, who is dying of kidney failure, appeared to my wife to be dead. She woke me, I checked: not dead yet, fooled her. (Insert Python joke here.) Now awake, I lay in bed, and every sound in my house is subject to my inspection. Where's Pepper (the cat) going? My daughter is coughing, should I get her something? That doesnI believe myself in control of every act in that house. The order of my home is intentional, it is the subject of my imagination, my design, and I believe it's in my control (as long as my wife agrees :)

But the world outside is not. It continues to function without my design and control. To borrow the quote of Hayek that begins Horwitz's article:
Moreover, the structures of the extended order are made up not only of individuals but also of many, often overlapping, sub-orders within which old instinctual responses, such as solidarity and altruism, continue to retain some importance by assisting voluntary collaboration, even though they are incapable, by themselves, of creating a basis for the more extended order. Part of our present difficulty is that we must constantly adjust our lives, our thoughts and our emotions, in order to live simultaneously within different kinds of orders according to different rules. If we were to apply the unmodified, uncurbed, rules of the micro-cosmos (i.e., of the small band or troop, or of, say, our families) to the macro-cosmos (our wider civilisation), as our instincts and sentimental yearnings often make us wish to do, we would destroy it. Yet if we were always to apply the rules of the extended order to our more intimate groupings, we would crush them. So we must learn to live in two sorts of worlds at once.
Remember when we thought of the liberals as the Mommy Party? The Mommy Party can be seen that tries to apply the microcosmos to the macro-environment. As I heard Dennis Miller say on his radio program yesterday (or maybe it was his guest), the Republican Party is the one that wants to regulate your bedroom and the Democratic Party wants the rest of the house. Maybe so.

"Our world is interconnected": it's a phrase we often hear and it sometimes is used as a reason for us to "work together". But that's not the extended order Hayek defines. It's the world of the famous I, Pencil story; it's the world that appreciates the division of labor being limited by the extent of the market, as Adam Smith observed. Read that link and you'll see that those who became more advanced had the ability to deal with others they did not know thanks to geographical advantages (particularly by being on or near waterways.) They were interconnected only in certain areas, and not others.

I'm fine when my wife tells me I'm being silly thinking Cheerios will reduce my cholesterol and that she will no longer buy them when shopping for groceries, putting Special K in the cupboard instead because it's good for me. I'm unhappy because I like Cheerios, but I recognize that my wife has made a commitment to me and me to her, and that we make investments in our home and family because of that commitment. In Ephesians 5:28-29 the apostle Paul wrote "He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it."

But at no point does that extend to the state. And it is from this that our distrust of government instruction of the right cereals or drains, etc. A president is not a member of my family, no matter who the president is.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The EU's Anschluss 

The European Union is keen to get its treaty ratified, so much so that it's willing to uncover its contempt for national sovereignty in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Cabinet meets in emergency session today to consider how to persuade their stubborn President to sign the Lisbon treaty � under intense pressure from Paris and Berlin to complete the ratification as soon as possible.

With President Klaus demanding a last-minute amendment as the price of his signature � the final approval required in the 27-nation European Union � the Government is locked in a trial of strength with its head of state and on the brink of a constitutional crisis. If it supports his demands the treaty might have to be reopened amid lengthy delays, possibly allowing time for David Cameron�s Conservatives to win the next British election and hold a referendum on the treaty as they have promised.

If the the Czech Government opposes President Klaus then it may have to resort to a form of impeachment or strip him of his treaty-signing powers so as to complete ratification.

Barely disguising the anger felt in European capitals, Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Prime Minister of Sweden, which holds the EU�s rotating presidency, told a signing ceremony by Poland that Czech assent was eagerly awaited. He added: �We do not need more delays.�
Jeremy Rabkin, author of the Case for Sovereignty, described it a few years ago:
All members of the EU have now bound themselves to a scheme in which the European Court of Justice treats mere treaties as superior to national constitutions � and national courts give priority to the rulings of this European Court, even against their own parliaments and their own national constitutions. This is way, way, way, beyond anything we could accept in America. To find an analogy, you must imagine that NAFTA officials in Montreal claim the authority to override the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court � and federal judges in America agree that the NAFTA policy must take priority.

What makes the European scheme particularly bizarre � at least from our point of view � is that Europeans aren't really prepared to pursue their "Union" to its logical conclusion. They don't trust the EU to have an army or police or even criminal courts of its own. So Europeans are entrusting supremacy to a government they don't really trust � at least not enough to entrust with traditional attributes of sovereignty.
In the long run, the American scheme is bound to be more respectful of individual rights and personal liberty, because we start from the recognition that people can disagree whereas the EU is always presuming some consensus that will � supposedly � be discovered by bureaucrats and judges.
Daniel Hannan warned months ago that "in order to preserve the anti-democratic order in Brussels, the national leaders must sacrifice a measure of their domestic democracy, too." It is now on full display in Prague.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Obama's Foreign Policy ABCs: Apologize, Betray, Cave 

We have had the epitome of a baby boomer president in office for less than nine months. During this period, we have watched the supposed leader of the free world apologize to anyone who will listen for just about anything and ignoring the good we do.

We have watched him betray freedom loving people across the planet
- Israel is the only truly functioning democracy in the Middle East, yet Obama and his naive sycophants totally ignore the atrocities committed by the Palestinians and demand that Israel stop protecting itself and refrain from providing housing for its people.
- Honduras legally elects a new president but Obama and his State Department do everything they can to protect a thug who was determined by Honduras Courts to be out of office.
- Turns out Obama knew about the release of the so-called "on death's row" perpetrator of the Lockerbie plane crash. 270 people murdered by a thug, who gets released to go home to honor and glory under another dictator, Omar Khadafi? What about all that leftist sympathy for victims? Or, don't they matter - the victims of the Lockerbie murderer are gone so the feelings of their relatives don't count?
- Iran has its freedom fighters dying in prison, women getting raped, the population taking to the street and the supposed leader of the free world simply ignores them.
We have watched him cave to special interest groups, thugs and dictators so quickly it is mind boggling. See betrayals listed above and add the following:
- Korea
- Russia demands the USA not install its missile shield in Poland or Czechoslo- vakia and Obama says, "OK" and by the way, we don't want anything in return.
- United Auto Workers union doesn't want tires manufactured in China to be sold in the US so Obama and his cronies impose a tariff.
The result will be a world without a strong, decent leader and a world that, if Obama continues, will become rapidly unsafe for billions of people. Either he is the most naive president we've ever had or his narcissism knows no bounds.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

What We Take for Granted 

This story always brings tears to my eyes because we take so much for granted, including our education system that offers a chance for students to be what they can or dream to be with work and dedication. Yet, I've wondered if it were true. It is as indicated here.
Classroom No Desks

A lesson that should be taught in all schools and colleges. Back in September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock , did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks from her classroom. When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks.

'Ms. Cothren, where're our desks?'

She replied, 'You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.'
They thought and said, 'Well, maybe it's our grades.'

'No,' she said.

'Maybe it's our behavior.'

She told them, 'No, it's not even your behavior.'

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom. By early afternoon television news crews had started gathering in Ms.Cothren's classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.

The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the deskless classroom, Martha Cothren said, 'Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he/she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.'

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it. Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand a longside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned..

Martha said, 'You didn't earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. Now, it's up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don't ever forget it.'

The freedoms we have in this great country were earned by U.S. Veterans. We must cherish our soldiers and remember, it is they who keep our press and country free. To ignore or tarnish their efforts and reputations will lead to losses very few of us can imagine.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Did you miss the fun Saturday? 

Your next opportunity to T.E.A. Party comes on Thursday, when you will be able to celebrate Constitution Day at the State Capitol. Join Mitch Berg, Sue Jeffers, Bradlee Dean and others at 5pm in your best patriot attire. AM 1280 will be cutting into the event.

Those further north or west from us in St. Cloud might want to go to Brainerd for a similar event that day at the Chamber of Commerce center beginning at 5pm.

I'd like to thank the University Chronicle for providing a full story of the St. Cloud party last Saturday.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

T.E.A. party remarks 

[This was my prepared text for the St. Cloud T.E.A. Party on 9/12. If you look real hard, you'll find mention of the party in this article from the Times.]

Thank you all for coming today. Thank you to the Central Minnesota Conservative Coalition for the opportunity to speak.

Today is a reminder to those we send to St. Paul and City Hall, and to those in Congress and the White House, that we feel forgotten.

�Forgotten?� you ask.

The economist William Graham Sumner wrote a century ago about the way in which we are forgotten by those who would help others in the name of humanitarianism but not with their own money.

A and B put their heads together to decide what C shall be made to do for D. The radical vice of all these schemes � is that C is not allowed a voice in the matter, and his position, character, and interests, as well as the ultimate effects on society through C's interests, are entirely overlooked. I call C the Forgotten Man.

Look around you and say hi to Mr. C and Mrs. C.

What Sumner understood was that in order to produce the good they want to distribute, they must draw on the energy that you create. Your labor, your savings, your creativity, your humanity. Sumner noted �that the State cannot get a cent for any man without taking it from some other man, and this latter must be a man who has produced and saved it. This latter is the Forgotten Man.�

That�s you.

And when government takes the produce and savings of the forgotten man, his choices are two. One: You can shrink. My friend and radio host Dennis Prager said it well this week: �When government gets larger, citizens get smaller.� People forget to take care of themselves, they rely on government, they don�t feel like working when they can�t keep what they earn and besides government will give it to them.

If you�re that kind of person, you�re at the wrong party.

Your other choice is to stand on your feet. And shout �forgotten no more.�

You have important work to do here today. If you do not want to be forgotten, you must remember why we are here. You cannot hold up a sign that says �Taxed Enough Already� if you don�t know what your government is supposed to tax you for. The other speakers here today are going to tell you that. They will tell you how to stop shrinking, stop being forgotten.

Because we have forgotten, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, what our �unifying purpose� is. �All we had forgotten,� he said, �was the human soul.� We live in a great country in an unbelievably prosperous time. Life is great in 21st Century America, if we just would understand why. All we have, Solzhenitsyn said, is �a delicate trial of our free will.�

You are on trial. If you fail, you will be forgotten. You will shrink to insignificance.

But I know many of you, and I know you will succeed. You will hear the words that remind us of our great purpose as a nation. And our country will succeed when we can say as one �Forgotten no more.�

God bless each of you today, and God bless our great country. Thank you.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Overweight Kids 

This article in the Times on Line discusses what appears to be a mandatory six-week camp for overweight kids. Points addressed include the responsibility of the parents, the inability of the schools to control what kids eat at home, driving kids everywhere, and the eating habits of the family.

While some sports are mentioned, at no place in the article or comments to date does anyone deal with a very basic issue: kids can no longer play games that give them real exercise at school because someone may lose. Excuse me - dodge ball, banned; keeping score in the few games left, banned; tag, banned. Sure the bans do not occur in all schools but once we started down the road of attempting to make school life 100% safe, by definition we removed those activities that actually provide physical outlets for kids.

Do I want my grandkids to be overweight? No. Do I want them to be able to run, play, laugh, win, lose, etc., absolutely. It's called LIFE.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Compassion Carousel 

With the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the Libyan nationalist who was responsible for the murder of 270 people aboard Pan Am Flight 103 and on the ground on December 21, 2988, a thinking person has to wonder just what is to be gained by telling the world for the umpteenth time that the west is so compassionate they would release a cold-blooded murderer.

You have to hand it to the supporters and perpetrators of terrorism - they know how to play on western guilt. They play the 'compassion' card, constantly demanding more ____ for the members of their human subset community who commit horrendous atrocities. Yet they ignore entirely, the pain and anguish for family and friends who lose loved ones to planned assassinations.
Demands for compassion include:
1 - Don't execute the terrorists because eliminating someone who wantonly murders others means that the west is just well, not compassionate.
2 - Don't sentence him to life in prison because that person may just be able to be rehabilitated (ignore the recidivism rate of criminals).
3 - In American and most western run prisons, inmates are given quality life care including entertainment appropriate to their belief systems, medical care, dental care, visitors, recreation, attorneys, etc. There is no way these procedures would be available in most of their native countries.
4 - Heaven forbid, a murderer of 270 should die in prison.
5 - How many compassionate actions will it take to get approval from the secular left before they realize that, unfortunately, there are some really bad people in the world?

I believe that no matter what the west does, it will never, ever be enough to satisfy people who conveniently blame others for their misfortunes and ignore their own historical slaughters.

Bottom line - reviewing the celebration given Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in Libya, one must conclude they have played us for chumps, again. Appeasement does not work, especially with people who believe everything they do is correct and everything the west does is wrong.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Confluence: Religion, Education, States' Rights 

This article in the Wall Street Journal, online, is another example of government intrusion into religion, education, and freedom.

The director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Charlotte, N.C., ruled that Belmont Abbey College, a small Catholic education institution, in Belmont, N.C. discriminated against female employees because the college refused to cover prescription contraceptives in its health insurance plan.

In March, 2009, the college was informed that a case filed against it in 2007 [by eight employees], claiming discrimination in the restrictions for contraceptives under the employee-provided health plan, had no value and all was fine. Inexplicably the case was reopened and now the college is charged with violating federal law.

Turns out that the EEOC guidelines refuse to consider that an institution's religious beliefs exempt it from offering benefits such as birth control pills. The guidelines in the state of N.C. do allow for exemptions based on religion.

If the college refuses to change its policy, the EEOC will pursue legal action.

When does the government have a right to enforce its laws on religious institutions?
Can a religious hospital that opposes abortion be forced to perform one?

What about religious freedom as defined in the 1st Amendment?

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Questions on health care for your townhall for today 

There are plenty of copies of H.R. 3200 now for Congress to read. If you are going to a townhall with your Congressperson or Senator (which means you don't live in MN-7, since Rep. Peterson has decided he doesn't want to meet with you), you should read and bring specific questions about this bill. I intend to offer one a day.

Today's comes from Secs. 141 and 142. In these sections we read:
There is hereby established, as an independent agency in the executive branch of the Government, a Health Choices Administration (in this division referred to as the �Administration�).

The Administration shall be headed by a Health Choices Commissioner (in this division referred to as the �Commissioner�) who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.

(1) QUALIFIED PLAN STANDARDS- The establishment of qualified health benefits plan standards under this title, including the enforcement of such standards in coordination with State insurance regulators and the Secretaries of Labor and the Treasury.

(2) HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE- The establishment and operation of a Health Insurance Exchange under subtitle A of title II.

(3) INDIVIDUAL AFFORDABILITY CREDITS- The administration of individual affordability credits under subtitle C of title II, including determination of eligibility for such credits.

(4) ADDITIONAL FUNCTIONS- Such additional functions as may be specified in this division.
Questions for your congressperson or senator:
  1. Will this commissioner have the power to terminate one's insurance plan and place one in a government plan if he or she decides the private plan does not qualify? Dr. Bernadette Healy says yes.
  2. She also says that assignment is "random". Indeed it is; see Sec. 205. Does your Congressperson support random assignment of people to plans that the Health Choices Commissioner says do qualify?
  3. What will be the relationship between the Health Choices Commissioner and the IRS as regards the enforcement of the 2.5% tax on individuals who do not have coverage, as defined in Sec. 401?
  4. Will the Commissioner hire his or her own staff to administer "random compliance audits"?
  5. If I disagree with the determination of the Commissioner, to whom may I appeal? What are the checks and balances on the Commissioner's power?
  6. We heard recently of a massive Medicare fraud case that lead to many arrests. How would this new Health Choices Administration assure us that fraud would not explode in these government exchanges?
If you go to these townhalls, take these questions on index cards and distribute to your neighbors and friends. I'll bring more as I get them.

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Friday, July 03, 2009

A happy Independence Day to you 

It's nice to be back in St. Cloud. I was expected to leave for another conference tomorrow overseas, and when I called to suggest I would not fly on the Fourth of July there was a momentary pause on the other side. "Oh, that's your Independence Day, isn't it?!?" Yes, and I'd like to have it with my family. (I'll have to skip fireworks, as I leave early Sunday.)

(UPDATE: Yes, this means NARN will be a replay tomorrow. However, if you really must hear me, David and Margaret will be live tomorrow and I'll check in with my monthly macroeconomic update, just after 10am.)

Let me second Janet's request that we fly the flag. Let's celebrate our heritage, and our families, and let's pray for the freedom that we celebrate that day extends to all men and women. I'm going to wear a flag pin while speaking overseas next week. Had I one with an Iranian flag and a green ribbon on it, I'd wear it instead. But an American flag will do, and it does well as long as we continue to recognize why oppressed people prefer to see our flag come over a hill than anyone else's.

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Flying OUR Flag 

On Independence Day, July Fourth, Americans fly more American flags than possibly any other national holiday. Why? I believe at some level we know how fortunate we are to live in a country with the ideals and subsequent freedoms that we have. At times, we take them for granted, but underneath, I hope we realize that we, indeed, are very fortunate.

Yesterday we replaced our tattered flag with a bright, new one. With the flag came an insert covering all aspects of flying our flag - everything from: Displaying the flag properly, folding it correctly, respecting it, and basic facts. You can go here for details.

We must remember that freedom isn't free, people have died for our freedom, and because of our ideals, our flag is recognized around the world. Some will debate as to why, but the most telling reason is the answer to this question: "If all nations of the world had open immigration, where would people choose to go? The USA." Our flag represents freedom for everyone, everywhere.

Happy Independence Day

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Independence Day Tea Parties 

For all who will be around for the Fourth of July, our Independence Day, this is an invitation to participate in a Tea Party, hopefully near you. Those in the Twin City Metro area are welcome to join all independent minded people at the Capitol in St. Paul to celebrate our freedoms between the hours of 3 and 6. Afterwards, depending on your schedule, you may want to stay for great fireworks.

For those of you outside the metro area, go here to find a location that hopefully is near you.

Happy Birthday, USA!

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Today is the Anniversary of D-Day 

From a good friend - says it all:

Today is 06 Jun 2009, the 65th Anniversary of D-Day. A day which many of us have only read about in textbooks or seen news releases on television.
We hear personal testimonies and stories of which we an only imagine what took place on that day, which was a personal hell on earth for many within our fine military forces, and their families back home.
They gave all they had to give, and many gave their all.
There are yet but only a few of these brave men and women walking amongst us today, as many of their friends were killed in war or have passed on through the coarse of time.
If your path should cross that path of one of these veterans, or any veteran, please give them a hug of friendship and tell them thank-you for giving us the freedom which we yet enjoy today.
God Bless these Veterans, and God Bless America.........

It is the American soldier who keeps our press and the rest of our beliefs free. Thank you to all the families, heirs, and supporters of our military.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Those who knew "live free or die" 

I finally got around to finishing the Imprimis for April, which was the much-heralded Mark Steyn address "Live Free or Die." �Steyn lives in New Hampshire and the phrase appears on our license plates. �"Our" is a tenuous connection; I left the state in 1979. �But many years later on a visit I drove Mrs. S up to the Bennington Battle Monument, which was the site of General John Stark's great defeat of the Hessians attempting to resupply Burgoyne in Saratoga in 1775. �Stark, who is New Hampshire's greatest military leader and author of the title of Steyn's talk, said to his troops before the battle,�"There are your enemies, the Red Coats and the Tories. They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow!"

Many widows (and some widowers) awake this morning to Memorial Day, whose spouses fallen understood the rest of Stark's more famous motto -- given late in his life from his Derry home -- "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils." It is a very basic reaction to force, to coercion. It was well understood by these students in the picture above (thanks to Gateway Pundit) that the option of living under the heel of government is so unacceptable that life itself is a worthy offering in trade for freedom. Steyn writes of a European author:
Mr. Oscar van den Boogaard ... was reflecting on the accelerating Islamification of the Continent and concluding that the jig was up for the Europe he loved. �I am not a warrior, but who is?� he shrugged. �I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it.�
Today we honor not just those who learned how to fight unlike Mr. van den Boogaard but those who knew that there were worse options than the sword, and give thanks to those families who balance their honor and their loss.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

T Paw, WSJ, Veto Pen 

Friday's opinion page in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has a terrific article (note: subscription required) on our governor, Tim Pawlenty - top of the page! The author, Kimberley A. Strassel, begins the article with this classic, Minnesota quote:
"'Minnesota nice' comes in two forms: first, gracious hospitality; second, smiling stubborness. Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty this week delivered his spendthrift legislature a humiliating tast of the latter. You betcha."
The DFL is identified plainly as the irresponsible player in the budget process, holding the DFL accountable for their ludicrous suggestions including: "... a new top income tax rate of 9% (the 4th highest in the US); across-the-board income tax increases; sales taxes on internet downloads; the end of the local property tax cap (enacted only in 2008); alcohol taxes; cigarette taxes; eliminating the deduction for an organ donation (no joke); and killing the mortgage interest deduction."

This opinion is a great read. The close includes a suggestion to Congressional Republicans that they might start looking up north for fiscal responsibility. "It is the fundamental tenet of our party, and the conservative coalition more broadly. If we don't have that, we are nothing."

Thank you, T Paw!

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Iran's REAL Nuclear Goals 

This article in today's WSJ, outlines the moves being made by Iran to obtain the necessary components for very accurate missile strikes. These financial maneuvers, designed to hide acquisition of critical components, provide proof that the current US ostrich approach when it comes to Iran is innocent at best and very, very damaging to people of the free world. These two paragraphs summarize the situation:

Back when the Bush Administration was warning about Iran's nuclear progress, or its deadly meddling in Iraq, the typical Democratic and media response was to treat the Islamic Republic as innocent until proven guilty. This month, Democrat Robert Morgenthau supplied the proof.

In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that was largely ignored by the media, the legendary Manhattan District Attorney opened a window on how Iran is secretly obtaining the ingredients for an arsenal of mass destruction.
One can continue to behave naively or one can grow up and recognize the real world. Thank goodness Dick Cheney is trying to awaken those who refuse to believe that there are people who want to destroy all of us, regardless of our rhetoric. It would be nice if the DC Democrats and the mainstream media would pay attention and realize what is at stake.

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Baby DNA Protected, For Now 

For those of you following the fight to protect our DNA from government intervention, this year's efforts worked. At 2:02 AM I received the following announcement from Twila Brase, President of the Citizens' Council on Healthcare. (emphasis mine).

Good Morning!

It's 1:15 a.m. and I want to report the good news. We won! The gavel came down at midnight, the Minnesota legislature adjourned in the nick of time, and the Baby DNA warehousing bill to repeal genetic privacy and DNA ownership rights at birth, never came up for a vote!

This is your success!

Your citizen petitions, the many people who attended the legislative hearings, your emails and phone calls to legislators, the Sue Jeffers show on KTLK, CCHC's new Protect Baby DNA cards, the Glenn Beck Program, Reps. Tom Emmer and Mary Liz Holberg, Sen. David Hann's great questions during the Senate hearing, the "Do NOT Repeal Genetic Privacy" stickers we all wore, my opportunity to speak at the Tea Party, our meeting with Governor Pawlenty, the CCHC report on newborn screening and eugenics, the filing of the lawsuit against the Department, local TV news coverage (esp. WCCO-TV), the prayers of many people, and the unexpected informational hearing on genetic privacy led to this success.

Governor Pawlenty helped too. His budgeting ultimatum and declaration of no special session changed everything. The focus became the budget, health care cuts, and taxes. Assuming he meant it, there will not be a special session and our lives, liberty, property�and the genetic privacy law�are safe for another eight months.

The House and Senate Baby DNA bills (HF1341/SF1478), remain "alive" until next session because the legislature functions in a 2-year cycle. Plenty will be done before then on our side and on theirs...which could change entirely how the battle over who owns our genetic code looks when the state legislature returns on February 4, 2010.

We'll keep you apprised. There will be several events that you may want to participate in between now and then as we work to secure dismantling of the State and Mayo Clinic's DNA warehouses, require the Health Department to follow the law (informed consent requirements) and secure DNA property rights in law.

But this morning, I and the members of the CCHC Board of Directors want to thank you for helping us preserve and protect genetic privacy rights, informed written consent rights, human research subject rights, parent rights and DNA property rights for all Minnesotans!

Thank you!

Twila Brase
Citizens' Council on Health Care
A short summary is this: many children, including those born recently, have their DNA taken from them without parental consent. Preventing the taking of DNA at the present time is difficult but still doable. For now, we have averted a major violation of privacy and freedom.

We can make a difference - this time, we did. Thank you to all. If you want to get more involved with this group and legislation, please feel free to contact Twila. She has done yeoman's work on this effort. She understands the more the government gets into our lives, the less freedom we have.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Liberal Justice Ginsburg Cries, "More Women on US Supreme Court" 

The USA Today article, Ginsburg: Court needs another woman by Joan Giskupic discusses Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's concern over the fact that she is the only woman on the US Supreme Court. Having lived through much of the complaining feminists era, I have a different take on appointments to the US Supreme Court.

President Obama and Justice Ginsburg seem to be saying that a Supreme Court Justice should function like a legislator, that is, determining "What kind of social policy should the US have?"

But, there are two huge problems with this line of thinking. First, a committee of nine people appointed for life is an inadequate group to be representative of over 300,000,000 people. Because the Founders understood the risk in giving too much power to judges, the US Constitution calls for the legislative branch to be much bigger than the judicial branch. And, the legislative branch members are to be elected by the people far more frequently than appointing judges for life terms.

Second, the US Supreme Court takes up and decides about 150 cases each year. These cases encompass only a fraction of the public policy issues that courts across the nation address. These cases that make it to the Supreme Court are in a very real sense, arbitrary because they reflect special facts of how the legal parties in a particular case interacted.

Thus, this does not mean that Supreme Court cases are representative of how things happen in the broader quilt of our 300,000,000+ person society.

For Justice Ginsburg to say, "the 'worst part' is the image of a single woman at the high projects, particularly to young people visiting the court: "Young women are going to think, 'Can I really aspire to that kind of post?'"

To which I reply, "Yes you can. You 'aspire' but that does not mean you succeed in attaining the goal." Women equal men in law schools and have for many years but this mantra of "equality" ignores the basic differences in humans. We all have talents but no two of us are alike - that is why we have our Constitution, a most enduring document designed to protect people and focus on the law (vs. tribe, religion, sex, etc.).

Does Justice Ginsburg want a female, or a liberal female? Would she support US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Justice Janice Rogers Brown, a dark-skinned conservative?

Sunday's article by Boston Globe columnist, Jeff Jacoby, also discusses this issue here.

My wish for the Supreme Court, and all other courts, is the appointment of people who know the US Constitution, our law. A basic tenet we have failed to teach our youth for decades is that the Rule of Law is a key reason the western world thrived. One's success was determined by work and an equal application of the law. There are and always will be exceptions but in general, we have been able to push human life spans and prosperity for more people beyond anything ever imagined by people just a century ago.

Purposely our Founders separated church and state. Purposely they designed a system that so far provides the most equal treatment for all in a judicial sense.

If the "law" reverts to decisions based on tribe, race, sex or religion, all of us will lose.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Union Worker Freedom or Thug Control? 

At noon today, Congressman John Kline held a blogger conference call to discuss the Democrat Party sponsored Orwellian-named bill, the "Employee Free Choice Act." To read the label, one would think that employees would be able to choose their place of work, their union, no union, etc. but in reality, this bill would remove the American right of a secret ballot for union elections.

How? Simply put, if 50% + 1 employees in a company sign a union card recognizing a union, that's it. What company would consider opening if union 'representatives' could go to employees' homes, and 'interest' them into signing something what would throw away their right to a secret ballot?No company. Secret union vote? No, over, fait accompli, etc. The employer is forced to recognize the union and can no longer allow workers to vote on a secret ballot as to whether or not they really want a union.

Congressman Kline, along with more than 107 co-sponsors, have introduced the "Secret Ballot Protection Act," a bill that would mandate secret ballot elections for employees.

It's simple folks: The American workers' right to a secret ballot will be gone, period. If the Orwellian named "Employee Free Choice Act" passes, Obama has promised to sign it - another payback, this time to his union backers. It becomes law. We will pay and pay while jobs will go away. This action by the whining Democrats will force so many jobs overseas, we may never get them back.

No Democrats have signed on with this bill but a few phone calls might change some minds. Call the Congressional switchboard at 202.224.3121 and ask for offices of the following Representatives: Colin Peterson and Tim Walz of MN; Dan Boren of OK; Bobby Bright of AL.

Additoinal information here and here and latest summary, here.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Who Is John Galt? Atlas Shrugged 

A long time ago, I finally got through Atlas Shrugged, a masterpiece of writing by Ayn Rand. Basic story line: How America fell prey to the guilt and fear mongers, instituted government control under the guise of "social justice" and let the government take over everything. The book, as I recall, is about 1000 pages long. I had experienced a few false starts but I clearly remember getting past page 300 in my parents' kitchen, and did not put the book down until I finished it.

Turns out sales are soaring. 50+ years later, 200,000 copies were sold in 2008. Sales for the seven weeks of 2009 are up 300%. I'm guessing this increase will continue. If you don't have your copy, get it now.

Hat tip: The Jawa Report Best line:"if you don't think you're ready to dive into the world of Atlas Shrugged (whose portrayal of politicians and their various crimes committed in the name of "social concern" unfortunately reads more like nonfiction), it's time to stop putting it off."

If you visit this site, you can learn more about Ayn Rand and the center she founded. She was born in Russia, lived through the Bolshevik Revolution which she denounced. She watched the deterioration of freedom under the Communists, the stifling of creativity, the takeover of the university by Communist thugs. It was time for a creative writer to leave. At age 20 she managed to get a visa to visit relatives in the US with no intention of returning to Russia. Her masterpiece, Atlas Shrugged , published in 1957, is timeless since it addresses totalitarians of all stripes. Wonder why people are buying it today????????

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Government That Governs Least, Governs Best 

Government needs to be limited by law. What has happened too much in the west is we have lost confidence in the importance of the Rule of Law and are morphing our way into servitude.

This very brief video (10 minutes) summarizes types of governments and what happens to the people under those governments when they become lazy, guilt ridden, spoiled, or expect others to take care of them while ignoring the power of the individual. It is so worth watching! Please take the time to view it, then send it to whomever you can.

Regardless of our problems, the US has been a magnet for people from all over the world. Conscious or otherwise, immigrants come here first because of the Rule of Law. But the Rule of Law can be lost if people turn over their individual responsibility to government. In the end, freedom is gone.

We owe it to our kids, grand kids and the world to regroup and take back our country. We were designed on the concept that all men are created equal. This belief will not last if any other form of government replaces the Rule of Law.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama's and the Democrats' Socialist Policies 

While it may take a while for the impact of the socialist policies (the government can spend our money more wisely than people can - Larry Pogemiller, DFLer in the MN State Senate), the Democrats may wish to ponder the following two scenarios:
1 - The story about the Central American rebels who went to villages to gain support:
The rebel leader said to the crowd:
"If a man has 2 houses and another has none, shouldn't the man with two share one?"
"YES!!!!" replied the villagers.
"If a man has 2 tractors and another has none, shouldn't the man with two share one?"
" YES!!!!" yelled the villagers.
"If a man has 2 cows and another has none, shouldn't the man with two share one cow?"
Dead silence....................
Stunned, the rebel leader turned to the village chief and asked, "What did I say wrong?"
Replied the chief, "Most of the villagers have 2 cows."

2- Here is a (perhaps apocryphal) quote attributed to Margaret Thatcher that nevertheless captures an important truth: "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Hollywood - FINALLY Someone Is Doing Right 

Andrew Breitbart, author and commentator, has started a blog to combat the one-sided, elite, anti-American views of so much of the Hollywood culture.

Big Hollywood, his blog, is being launched today. Big Hollywood is not a "celebrity" gabfest or fan gossip outpost. Its topics will consist of politics and culture, a site for those who believe something has gone drastically wrong in Hollywood. Its objective is to change the entertainment industry. Wow - who would have thought that maybe, just maybe, there's something very ill in the mindset of the Hollywood establishment?

Hollywood used to produce the best films ever, stateside. Their product gave people hope, told positive, uplifting stories. But the drift left by the power brokers has gotten worse over the past few decades. Today, American corporations, the FBI, the CIA and elected U.S. officials (usually conservatives) are the bad guys. Real bad guys, those who want all of us, including Hollywood elites eliminated, are ignored.

This last election showed how much the influence of pop culture has on the American electorate. For 37+ years our education system and social construct has made us the bad guys and raised kids (now adults) to believe that they are perfect yet America is bad; passiveness is good but military is bad, etc. This view is destroying the very essence of America, the spirit that made us who and what we are. The right has needed a place to combat this negative, distorted, pop-culture view of America.

Big Hollywood just may be the vehicle that unites Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians - a place with a recognizable name that will challenge the singular, leftist Hollywood meme and the way we look at the world and ourselves.

Read more here.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Democrats Fair? No Way; and We Pay 

US Speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, has decided to re-write the House rules today to ensure that the Republican minority is unable to have any influence on legislation. Her proposals are so draconian and will so polarize the Capitol, that any thought President-elect Obama has of bipartisan cooperation will be rendered impossible. (Hmmmm - is Obama in on this scam?)

Democrats had controlled the US House of Representative for decades before the Gingrich Revolution of 1994. During that time they implemented abusive practices that: had no term limits for committee chairs; encouraged backroom deals; denied debate on the floor of the House; denied Republicans the ability to expose and offer proposals to eliminate tax increases hidden by the Democratic majority; many other unfair, unjust, and secretive practices.

When Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, they opted for transparency. They opened committee meetings to the public and media, thereby making Congress actually subject to federal law. They set term limits for committee chairs, thereby ending committee fiefdoms. They guaranteed the then Democratic minority party the ability to offer amendments to legislation.

Democrat Pelosi's proposed repeal of procedures to provide accountability by elected members of Congress exposes a tyrannical Democrat leadership and mindset that is detrimental to the legislative process. A return to a Democrat "my way or the highway" of previous decades means we will all pay, and pay, and pay and pay........

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year 

To All Our Readers,

Thank you for joining us this past year and we hope you will continue to visit us in 2009.

While we will have differences of opinion, we still live in the freest nation ever devised for man. Our nation affirms that each of us is equal, in a fundamental sense, to every other person. And we do seek, with all of our imperfections, justice as well.

We are extremely fortunate.

But our liberty -- and equality -- and justice -- are all fragile. They have been gained for us through the efforts of many, at great cost. They require eternal vigilance and sometimes great sacrifice, even today. We've had it so good for so long that some of us have lost perspective on the fragility of freedom, how it can just evaporate, albeit slowly.

Let us be grateful for what we have. Let us be alert to all the dangers we face. And let us, too, be willing to make the sacrifices and bear the burdens needed to preserve these blessings for ourselves and for those who will come after we are gone.

Happy New Year to All - may you be able to handle and enjoy whatever 2009 brings your way.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Tribute to Americans and Iraqis 

Please spread the word that this Sunday, November 23, the MN Vets for Freedom will be presenting a music and video tribute to our soldiers, "America-Iraq Friends in Freedom." Fado Fadhil, an Iraqi who helped Americans and is now living in MN, as well as Army Vet, Joshua Revak will appear in the video. Vets who really understand the role of America in the world as well as what is at stake for free people everywhere will be speaking.

Please join us at The MN History Center, 345 Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul from 7:00-9:00 PM. Tickets are on sale now, $10 per person. You can order them through Teri Dahl: or 1.608.780.4677.

Again, support our troops - hope to see you there!!!

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Helping Soldiers Vote 

Earlier I wrote a post, encouraging people to get the necessary information to their soldiers so they can be sure their vote in this November's critical election counts. I will post every few weeks through October. Please spread the word to any family or friend who has someone serving in our military. Without them, we would not be free.

A soldier can register to vote absentee at this site.

Thank you.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Some Thoughts on Georgia - European Georgia 

King has posted on the Georgian situation here and here. While there is much hand-wringing, far too many so-called and wannabe "leaders" are spouting pabulum. Putin believed he could get away with this attack because he's been watching the cowardly press in the west. The bully Russia is back and the outcry is grossly underwhelming.

What can be done? This article by Charles Krauthammer actually lays out actions that can be taken. We do have leverage without sending in our military. As with most bullies, they need to be taught a lesson. If they are not properly taught, they bully again. As I've said before, "Appeasement doesn't work."

However, there is another angle that has not been discussed much - that of tribe. Many Americans have difficulty comprehending tribal cultures, that is, tribal in the ethnic sense. For all the complaining about race, culture, belief, etc. in the USA, we have more people from more nations with more spoken tongues than most anywhere else on earth. We have also learned over time to get along.

Most American immigrants to the USA came because they were of the wrong tribe, religion or social class in their home country. Even the original African slaves were either tricked or kidnapped by other African tribes and sold the the highest bidder - first the Arabs, then the Europeans. Today many Christian Africans come to the USA so as to practice their faith without fear of being hurt. Other immigrants come for jobs, others to get away from civil war (war within cultures in a given location). Previous immigrants also made it a point to take advantage of our education system, learned English, and cherished the opportunity to succeed.

In many parts of the world, these freedoms are not available. Ethnic and tribal groups harbor hatreds, some that go back over 1000 years. They are caught up in a "I'm perfect, better than ________, will get even, etc." mindset.

The situation in Georgia is reminiscent of these historical conflicts. Ethnic groups in this region still cling to old patterns to attack and in Russia's case, destroy a free state. We have a choice: take action, as outlined by Mr. Krauthammer, or revert to letting tribes destroy themselves.

KING ADDS: Janet's writing reminded me of Douglass North, the Nobel Prize winner in Economics in 1993. From his Nobel lecture:
There is no guarantee that the beliefs and institutions that evolve through time will produce economic growth. Let me pose the issue that time presents us by a brief institutional/cognitive story of long-run economic/political change.

As tribes evolved in different physical environments they developed different languages and, with different experiences, different mental models to explain the world around them. The languages and mental models formed the informal constraints that defined the institutional framework of the tribe and were passed down intergenerationally as customs, taboos, and myths that provided cultural continuity.

With growing specialization and division of labor the tribes evolved into polities and economies; the diversity of experience and learning produced increasingly different societies and civilizations with different degrees of success in solving the fundamental economic problem of scarcity. The reason is that as the complexity of the environment increased as human beings became increasingly interdependent, more complex institutional structures were necessary to capture the potential gains from trade. Such evolution requires that the society develop institutions that will permit anonymous, impersonal exchange across time and space.

...Not only has the pace varied over the ages; the change has not been unidirectional. That is not simply a consequence of the decline of individual civilizations; there have been periods of apparent secular stagnation - the most recent being the long hiatus between the end of the Roman Empire in the west and the revival of Western Europe approximately five hundred years later.
But at the end of this lecture, in which North discusses the rise and decline of the USSR and world communism, he includes this point:
It is adaptive rather than allocative efficiency which is the key to long run growth. Successful political/economic systems have evolved flexible institutional structures that can survive the shocks and changes that are a part of successful evolution. But these systems have been a product of long gestation. We do not know how to create adaptive efficiency in the short run.
Krauthammer thinks we can impose that from outside, but we really cannot, at least in the short run. Russia and Georgia are still very young in their existence, and the institutional structures have not developed yet. As North, Wallis and Weingast (2005) noted:
For much of the world, the relevant alternative to the natural state is not an open access order like the United States or France, but a descent into the hell of disorder.
I admit to the pessimism of that quote in regards to Georgia this week.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Union Card Check Doublespeak 

There is a move afoot by Democrat members of Congress, including The Ego-bama, to enact a law called the "Employee Free Choice Act." It sounds innocuous enough but typical of Orwellian doublespeak, the act would eliminate a union member's right to vote, via secret ballot, the current law. As soon as half (or one more) employee have been "persuaded" or intimidated or coerced into signing cards, all employees lose their right to a secret ballot vote.

Thus, I propose this 15 second commercial for Republicans. To be accompanied by solemn background music.

Question - As a union member, do you wish to keep the secret ballot provision for election of union leaders and decisions?

Worker (multiple workers) - "Of course." "Absolutely!" "Yes!" "No way do I want to give up that right!"

Announcer - To keep your free votes, options, choices, vote for _________ for senator. He/she supports every worker's right to a secret ballot.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Making Soldier Votes Count 

Our son is stationed with the US Army in Korea. One of his responsibilities is to make sure that the soldiers in his camp are able to vote. He contacted our Congressman, John Kline, and was directed to this website where soldiers stationed overseas can register to vote for any county in the USA. Please encourage your soldier to visit the site. I have gone through it and as the user who was given new applications to test because "if there's a glitch, Janet will find it" I can honestly say, this site is user friendly.

Our soldiers have had their votes denied in the past for a variety of reasons. There is enough time now to let your soldier know that they can get their ballots through this website.

Our son also reviewed it as well as other sites and has stated that in his opinion, this site is the best.

Thank your soldiers for their efforts and support.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Yep, We're Winning in Iraq 

Thank goodness for the Wall Street Journal or we might not know this: the Iraqi expats in Cairo, Egypt are GRATEFUL to we Americans. Why? For the first time they have a chance at a society not ruled by a dictator. Ok, not the first because they did have a leader whom Saddam removed but they have a chance now, and they know it.

Le Grillion is a restaurant-bar in the always-crowded downtown Cairo frequented by Iraqi expats. Take a look at what they are saying and also note their concerns.
"I am from Fallujah" says one man � an art agent � with a cigar ever between his fingers. "We should make the most benefit from the Americans while we can. It is a moment of history. We either get a state now, or we will always be like this."

Author, NUMAN AL FADDAGH, "I cannot keep my pleasure to myself. I saw my Iraq � one that I have only seen in poetry � in the near future: an oasis of peace and prosperity amidst the scorching desert, a home for its children and a sanctuary for its guests."

A female commented, "They (Iraqis) were of every color in the Iraqi rainbow, but you can speak of two common things among them: telling you about their plans to go home within months and considering the Americans to be partners in that home they are returning to."

Another female, this time a Christian who was forced to leave Iraq by Al Qaeda and now lives in Jordan, says, She told me "it seems that the Americans know what they are doing. They have been so patient with us, but it seems that we have learned our lesson now."

Numan then asked the gang at Le Grillion what they thought about the proposed long-term treaty with the Americans. The answer came immediately: "We have nothing to give the Americans; we are the ones who should be thankful!"

My greatest fear (Numan) � and it seems to be the case for all my new friends here � is the future of the American presence in Iraq. Our tongues and our minds have been freed, and yes we are heading home, but the Americans might run out of patience before we can make it.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

July 4, 2008 - Re-enlistment - in Baghdad 

Today is July 4, the day we set aside to remember how lucky we are to live in a nation as free as the USA is. We also remember that we have provided freedom to more people than any other nation on the planet, most recently the 25,000,000 plus Iraqis getting a shot at representative government for the first time, ever.

A perfect example of what America really is took place in Baghdad where 1215 American soldiers reenlisted. You can watch the video here - it's short but play it, listen to the words: "Defend the Constitution of the United States." These soldiers understand that document better than some of our Supreme Court judges.

In addition to playing the video, you might want to read the comments. They tell another, wonderful story.

Our active, all-volunteer military comprises less than .3% of our population yet these men and women are better trained, more responsible, better suited to leadership than a number of our so-called elite college graduates. If I were an employer, I'd hire a vet in a heartbeat - of course, the vet has to leave the military and these guys decided to stay around for another tour.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

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The Declaration of Independence - July 4 

The Declaration of Independence - the wonderful document written by Thomas Jefferson and signed by so many leaders of the American colonies while under British rule - the document that began a chain of events that lead to more freedom for more people than possibly any other document - the document that provided the guidelines for our Constitution was signed on July 4th, 1776.

What made this Declaration so special? The documented concept that "All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" was a breakthrough in thought for humanity. All men created equal? Yes, and that phrase, while unusual at the time eventually made its way around the world. The phrase does not say we are equal in talent, gifts, health, wealth, but created equal - given a chance to succeed.

"Endowed by their Creator" is the phrase our Founders used to recognize and accept that there is a power behind the universe. The Founders did not push, force or regulate a any belief system but rather established the guidelines to allow people to worship as they chose.

"With certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" these ideals were rights of all mankind. It did not mean one group could impose its perception of rights on others but rather these words supported the right to life without fear of unwarranted persecution; the freedom to think, say, work, get educated, make a difference without infringing on the rights of others to do the same; the pursuit of happiness - not a guarantee of happiness, but the pursuit of it.

Each year on the Fourth of July, we celebrate. Our freedoms are not an entitlement - freedoms can be lost. The Founders expected us to be vigilant in our free lives, take the responsibility to make sure that we remember that tyranny can arise. Their fear was that we would forget.

Unfortunately, life is not always fair nor is life risk-free. Our Founders believed in the dignity of man and desired to put in place a system that would allow man to freely pursue his/her individual ideas. They succeeded in their goal. It's our responsibility to keep the dream alive for our children, our posterity; to remain that beacon of hope for the rest of the planet.

To read our Declaration of Independence from England, go here, take a few minutes and treasure the ideal of centuries.

KB Adds: Mrs. S reflects on the Declaration here in this morning's St. Cloud Times, putting it in context of the Magna Carta.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

D-Day - We must Remember 

Today, June 6, is the 64th anniversary of D-Day, the day on which the Invasion of Normandy began. The purpose of this massive military effort was to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi occupation in World War II.

Too often today, in our schools, this successful effort to free millions of people from the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler and his German machine, is ignored and the focus morphs to a guilt trip. The idea no longer discussed is where would we be today if the German/Japanese Axis had won? We would be speaking German or Japanese. Open schools for all - no. Racial advances - no. Concepts of free thought, ideas, real choice would not exist. Neither the Nazis nor the Japanese (who at the time believed their emperor was a direct descendant of the gods) would have tolerated what we today take for granted. If you question this, check here, here, here, and here for the real atrocities conducted in Nazi concentration camps and Japanese prisoner of war camps.

Freedom is not free. When free nations are attacked from within or without, there are times they must fight back. Those who oppose fighting at all costs are usually people who have never lacked freedom. They have no clue as to how ruthless and dogmatic dictators can get; how barbaric some societies still are. Though WWII was a war that would hopefully end all wars, the military defeat of the Axis powers, coupled with their unconditional surrender, did not take into account societies outside the two major fighting groups: Germany, Japan (with help from some Arab nations), and Italy versus the Brits, Americans (with help from the French resistance, Canada and Australia).

This omission resulted in the western thinking of today: peace at any cost; a naive belief that the UN, dominated by dictators who could care less about freedom and choice, actually want to help people; a blindness to existing societies that discriminate against women, dark-skinned peoples, and still rule via military thuggery. A culture of pacifism, which has always existed, gets far more press today. "If only..." my view of the world could be forced on all others, all would be fine. Ignored is the fact that there are people who will never agree with my "if only..." view.

The WWII soldiers fought to keep freedom. Without this ability to live where one can create, think, and express ideas without fear for life, progress comes to a grinding halt. Humans will revert to their most basic state - fighting.

We who are the children of the greatest generation, the group that saved the world from dominance by the Germans and Japanese, must remember the D-Day Invasion - it led to the longest period of peace and prosperity for so many hundreds of millions of people ever.

Thank you, WWII vets, especially D-Day veterans and families.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Continual Improvements - #1 

One of the most unique characteristics about American environment is the ingenuity and desire to constantly improve products, processes, and procedures. I've had a number of examples of this in the past but have not blogged on them for whatever reason. It's time for this practice of mine to change.

Most of us know about CorningWare products since we use them all the time and they are incredibly durable, come in the right sizes, etc. A key feature of their cooking products are that they can go from freezer to microwave or regular oven with no hassle. Now they have invented a new line of baking products called SimplyLite.

This new line weighs up to 50% less than traditional ceramic bakeware. Reviews and descriptions from earlier purchases can be read here.

Many of you know I teach a number of foreign students in my MIS class. We discuss this constant improvement attitude. This mindset is a trait many societies do not have because of belief systems, social structure, homogeneity, etc. The US attracts people from around the world, people who want a chance to be free, to express themselves, to have the opportunity to try something from which they may be prohibited at home. This concept is rare. A key advantage of this way of thinking is the constant improvement available in all aspects of our lives. If you're a baker, give these products a try.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

How 'bout I just put a cop in my back seat? 

Another item on the list of Legislative acts that just fry my bacon:

A measure awaiting Gov. Tim Pawlenty's signature or veto would ban drivers from texting, reading or sending electronic messages while their cars are on the road.

Pawlenty must act on the transportation measure, which also creates new restrictions on teen drivers, by June 2. He has not said whether he will sign the bill or veto it.

Under the legislation, texting while driving would become a petty misdemeanor, much like other traffic violations.

"What we really want to do is send a message that it's unacceptable," said Rep. Frank Hornstein, a Minneapolis Democratic-Farmer-Laborite who sponsored the measure.

"I want to really get this issue much more on the radar because people may have the reaction that I had, which is, 'People do this while they drive?' "

There are any number of things that distract my driving; my hands are not always ten and two on the wheel. About one third of the distracted driving accidents that happen are due to stuff that is outside the car, like the billboard telling me to hang up my cell phone. There is already a law in the state on careless driving. When this issue was looked at in 2002, a MN House research report found that
�Driver talking on cell phone/CB� in the department�s annual compilation of crash statistics was cited in 2000 as a contributing factor in 110 damage-only crashes, 68 personal injury crashes, and two fatal crashes. These crashes represent only a tiny fraction of all such crashes in Minnesota that year�less than 0.4 percent of all crashes in each category. These percentages, while still quite low, have been slowly rising since the department began reporting this category of crash factors.
It is hard to believe, however, that they've risen to the point where the state has another right to pull drivers over.

I heard from someone in the last hour that Gov. Pawlenty said on his radio program this morning that he was signing this bill. That would be another disappointing loss of personal freedom signed by our "goalie". I'll update this post with a link to the story when it comes over the wire if so. (UPDATE: MPR confirms.)

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